SAYRE – Kisac Gallery and Gift Shop on the corner of Desmond and West Lockhart streets in Sayre held a grand opening on Wednesday with two separate ribbon cuttings.

Owner of the gallery and gift shop Linet McClinko noted that all the items in the shop are sourced directly from artisans in Kenya through Kisac Fair Trade.

“We find these products and then we bring them here, but of course we have a relationship with these artisans,” said McClinko. “We sell (the products) and then the proceeds go back to those communities so that they can be able to sustain themselves.”

McClinko went on to say that the proceeds from these types of items helped to complete a water project in her own village in Kenya, which is now providing water for more than 1,000 people.

“We used to spend over two hours going all the way down the hill to get water,” said McClinko. “They don’t have to do that anymore. It’s really changed a lot of lives.”

The products themselves are made from soapstone, a soft rock that is mined and carved by hand. The artisans use machetes and other simple tools to carve the designs before sanding and waxing them for a smooth finish.

“Most of the carving is done by men, but we are trying to encourage women to get involved in it,” McClinko said. “It’s just a cultural thing over there, women tend to not do that.”

The pieces range from small paperweights in the shape of hearts, eggs, and various small animals, to larger decorative sculptures of elephants, big cats, and even people.

The store is filled with bright colors, as many of the stones are dyed before details are etched into the designs.

“This can be made by anyone,” McClinko said holding up a small, red soapstone heart, “but (for the larger and more intricate designs) you have to practice to do that.”

The majority of the products are small items that cost around $5 apiece. The larger items can range in the hundreds, as heavier sculptures incur higher shipping costs.

McClinko pointed out the most expensive product currently in the gallery/gift store, which has a price tag of $5,000.

“The most expensive would be the panther over there,” said McClinko. “We made five, and all of them broke before we got that one.”

McClinko said that she hopes to have something for everybody, and something that fits into everyone’s budget. She noted that many of the smaller pieces are carved from chunks of rock taken off of the larger sculptures.

“We try to be sustainable as much as we can,” she said.

McClinko said that before opening the shop Kisac Fair Trade had previously worked with organizations like Ten Thousand Villages and World Market. She even recently received an order from HomeGoods, but she is more hesitant to work with that type of larger company.

“To them it’s about the numbers,” said McClinko. “(The artisans’) pieces mean something to us. It’s just about that relationship and bringing them here and finding people who really appreciate them.”

“We cannot compete with China or factories,” McClinko continued, “but they are talented and we just don’t want that to be lost.”

Erik Berggren can be reached at eberggren@morning-times.com or (570) 888-9643 ext. 231.

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